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‘Whisper Cottage’ by Anne Wyn Clark proved an intriguing domestic noir/mystery that held my attention throughout.
I did a combined read/listen with its unabridged audiobook edition. The audiobook was narrated by Lauren Moakes.
In 2012 Stina and Jack are hoping for a fresh start away from the stresses of urban life and move into Wisteria Cottage in the Warwickshire village of Avoncote. They are quickly befriended by their elderly neighbour Mrs Barley, whose cottage adjoins theirs.
When Stina spots a mysterious figure in the widow’s garden and hears strange noises, these incidents increasingly play on her mind. Then there are the villagers who whisper about Mrs Barley. Her insular lifestyle and interest in folklore, herbs, charms, and the like has people murmuring that she is a witch. Yet Stina doesn’t consider herself the superstitious type despite the bumps in the night and Mrs Barley’s eccentricity.
Stina’s pregnancy and then being befriended by the widow next door did evoke fleeting memories of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ for me. It added to the suspense.
‘Whisper Cottage’ proved a slow burn with the author building up the day-to-day lives of her characters as well as life in the village over a period of time. I especially liked the way that despite the suspicions of the villagers, Mrs Barley’s beliefs were not sensationalised. With Warwickshire having a rural tradition of folk magic and witchcraft, it seemed a fitting setting.
As well as this being Anne Wyn Clark’s debut novel, this appears to be Lauren Moakes’ first time narrating an audiobook. I found her delivery confident and clear. She did well in capturing Stina’s first person narration as well as the voices of its various supporting characters. So I expect that she will soon be adding more audiobooks to her CV.
Overall, I found ‘Whisper Cottage’ an engaging mystery with good characterisations and genuinely interesting twists and turns. I felt that it was an assured debut and look forward to her future projects.
This book started off promisingly and the tension was building nicely, but the pace was too slow - around the middle I got quite bored waiting for something exciting to happen and almost didn’t finish it. Towards the end the plot just got more and more unconvincing and the ending just kind of fizzled out. It felt like the author was trying too hard to create red herrings so that the big reveal at the end would be more shocking, but instead there were just lots of frustrating loose ends that didn’t really get resolved. I persevered to the end but was disappointed and wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who likes supernatural thrillers.